U.S. Supreme Court reins in president’s appointment powers

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By Daniel Wiessner and Lawrence Hurley

<span class="articleLocation”>The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday put new
restrictions on presidential powers, limiting a president’s
authority to staff certain top government posts in a case
involving an appointment to the National Labor Relations Board.

The court decided 6-2 to uphold a lower court’s ruling that
then-President Barack Obama exceeded his legal authority with
his temporary appointment of an NLRB general counsel in 2011.

In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court said
that under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a person cannot
serve as the acting head of a federal agency once the president
nominates him or her to permanently serve in the role if it is a
position that requires U.S. Senate confirmation.

SW General Inc, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based private
ambulance company and a subsidiary of Envision Healthcare
Holdings Inc, had challenged the makeup of the NLRB as
it sought to invalidate a board ruling that said it violated
federal labor law by discontinuing bonus payments for longtime
employees.

The NLRB had argued that the law’s restriction applied only
to politically appointed “first assistants” who are first in
line for acting positions when the heads of agencies leave
office, and not to other officials.

The ruling will give President Donald Trump and future
presidents less flexibility in filling jobs that require Senate
confirmation.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented,
saying the court ignored the fact that since the law governing
vacancies was adopted in 1998, more than 100 people have served
in acting roles while the U.S. Senate considered their
nominations for permanent jobs.

The case focused on Obama’s appointment of Lafe Solomon as
the NLRB’s acting general counsel to fill a vacancy in the job.
The position requires Senate confirmation.

Obama nominated Solomon to fill the position permanently but
also named him to fill in for former general counsel Ronald
Meisburg, who resigned in 2010, in the interim while awaiting
Senate action. Obama eventually withdrew Solomon’s nomination
after it stalled for more than two years. The Senate ultimately
confirmed Richard Griffin to the post in 2013.

SW General argued that Solomon should not have continued to
fill the position on a temporary basis pending Senate
confirmation, and the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed.

The case is National Labor Relations Board v. SW General
Inc, U.S. Supreme Court No. 15–1251.



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